Shorts: Spitting Swine Flu Risk; Joe Cole Ready to Sign Contract; Aguero a January Target; The Most Open Title Race Ever?; Who Would Be a Referee?

It’s all quiet on the western front. I’m in Cornwall for a couple of weeks, house- and cat-sitting. I don’t know what it is about being down here but I feel cut off from all things Chelsea and football. I’m several miles from a pub with a big screen and Sky Sports. The house I’m staying in has a flaky net connection at best and no PCs – Macs only – so I struggle to watch internet streams of games. It’s good to escape though.

Anyway, I’ve just waded through my RSS feeds to see if I’ve missed anything important since Saturday’s emphatic defeat of disease-ridden Blackburn at Stamford Bridge.

Here are just a few links worth clicking on.


Let’s start with swine flu. Rovers manager Sam Allardyce revealed yesterday that several members of his squad had contracted H1N1 and others were showing symptoms prior to the trip to the Bridge. Allardyce fears that the virus could have spread to Chelsea players, although the club are confident that none of the squad has shown any signs of the illness since the weekend.


While we’re on the subject of Big Sam, tonight we take on his former club Bolton Wanderers in the fourth round of the Carling Cup. Current Wanderers manager Gary Megson revealed that members of his own squad have also suffered with swine flu, but isn’t worried about it spreading between players on the pitch.

However, the Health Protection Agency has said that the habit of spitting on the pitch “could increase the risk of passing on infections”.

You can read a preview of the game on the BBC Football website and the official club site.


In the Guardian: Five things we learned from the Premier League this weekend.

Chelsea are not dependent on attacking full-backs: The oversimplified reading of a diamond formation suggests that any success is significantly dependent on the excellence of attacking full-backs. Yet Chelsea were without Ashley Cole and Jose Bosingwa when they obliterated Blackburn at the weekend. Juliano Belletti played within himself at left-back, while Branislav Ivanovic was largely useless going forward. It did not affect Chelsea at all.

With players of such ability and will there are so many ways to skin the cat: the unstoppable power of Didier Drogba, the craft of Michael Ballack, the subtlety of Frank Lampard, the force of Michael Essien, the pace of Nicolas Anelka, the mischief of Joe Cole – and the long-range shooting of all of them, with the Blackburn keeper Paul Robinson apparently trapped in a coconut shy. Like Don Revie’s Leeds, with whom this Chelsea side share so much – from frightening physical and mental toughness to inexplicably frequent second-place finishes – their collective strength has the capacity to transcend everything else, be it context, opposition, or even tactics.


John Terry has revealed that he talked to Carlo Ancelotti about Paolo Maldini in an effort to improve himself as a player.

“I have spoken to the manager a few times about Paolo Maldini and what he did, the way he worked, his relationship with the other players.

“I’m always looking to learn and improve, and when a manager comes in like Ancelotti, I think I can learn an awful lot from him – he’s played and managed at the highest level.”


The Daily Mirror reports that Joe Cole is ready to sign a new contract before the transfer window opens – and tie himself to the Bridge for the rest of his top-flight career.

“We’re talking at the moment about the future and we all agree what we want.

“I love it here. The club want me to stay, so there should be no problems. I feel like this is my home.”


With the January transfer window fast approaching, and the club’s request to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to have the transfer ban suspended until a decision on the appeal is made, the rumours have started in earnest.

The Sun, Telegraph and Daily Mail carry the same report that Atletico Madrid are ready to listen to offers for Sergio Aguero.

“There were two bids in the summer,” [Atletico’s director general Miguel Angel Gil Marin] told Spanish newspaper Marca.

“Chelsea wanted Aguero and Real Madrid wanted Diego Forlan.

“Chelsea offered 50m euros (£46m) for “Kun” and Madrid offered 36m euros (£33m) for the Uruguayan.

“If they want to make a better offer, Atletico will assess it.

“If we have to correct something in the winter market we will.”

See this post for more info on Aguero: Marquees for hire: Pato, Villa, Aguero, Ribery.

The Daily Mail also links us with Napoli’s 22-year-old Slovakia midfielder Marek Hamsik.


The Daily Mail recaps the Champions League group stage so far.


Jeremy Wilson in the Daily Telegraph asks: Is this the most open Premier League title race ever?

Does anyone really want to win the Premier League? If so, they are in no hurry to identify themselves amid the enticing prospect of a title race that, according to Arsene Wenger, will involve up to six teams and last until the end of the season.

The Guardian’s Kevin McCarra says that the vulnerability of the Premier League’s elite teams makes for engrossing entertainment.


Also in the Guardian, Jonathan Wilson asks: Why are teams so tentative about false nines?

When one team does it, it’s happenstance. When Barcelona follow Manchester United in doing it, it’s coincidence. Add in Roma as well, and it starts to become a pattern. Teams who use a “false nine” – that is, a player who appears to be playing centre-forward, but drops deep – seem, however successful they have been, not to trust the system.


Routinely vilified, verbally and physically abused, their decisions and fitness scrutinised by millions – why would anyone want to be a football referee? The Daily Telegraph’s Jim White meets the whistle-blowers.

Every season the grassroots of our national game are spattered with the blood of match officials. Young and old referees get head butted, punched and chased to their cars in fear for their wellbeing. While it is unlikely to happen in the Premier League, in Saturday and Sunday leagues (where referees often have no linesmen to support them), assaults on match officials currently run at more than 300 a year; the Manchester County FA alone recorded 42 attacks on referees last season. That is just the physical assaults, the ones that get reported. The verbal abuse is so commonplace as to be not worth documenting, but is sufficiently morale-sapping to provoke as many as 7,000 referees in the past couple of seasons to give up. Referees often describe themselves as a breed apart. But the current circumstances are testing even their resolve.


The Premier League and Barclays have agreed a new three-year sponsorship deal worth £82.25m.


Tickets and safety may be scarce at next year’s World Cup, according to the New York Times Soccer Blog.

If you’re attending the tournament … be advised: Only 12 percent of the total capacity of a stadium is reserved for fans of each team. So if England happens to get drawn against Honduras at the newly reconstructed, 94,700-seat Soccer City Stadium in Soweto, each team will receive around 11,300 tickets.

For some, like English fans, that hardly seems fair. About 50,000 fans from England are expected to travel to South Africa.


The Daily Mail lists the top 50 football kits of all time. Nos 40-31.

Chelsea away 1970: Yellow peril – brilliant under floodlights; bright, daring and the embroidered FA Cup is a touch of class. Could be mistaken for a keeper’s jersey.

What are your favourite kits?


The FA Cup will be broadcast live on the internet for the first time next month when the Football Association streams the first-round tie between Oldham Athletic and Leeds United on its own website.


Finally, a great find by regular Chelsea Blog commenter PeteW. Damn United: The Official 2009/10 Sport Is A TV Show Premier League Preview.


If somebody would be kind enough to let me know the final score tonight, I’d be very grateful. (Just kidding, we do have radio down here in wilds of the West Country you know.)

Time to get some sleep. I’m having to share a bed with a large black and white cat called Murphy who wakes me at an ungodly hour every morning by tapping me on the head with his paw. The git continues to do this until I get up.